Recovery Meetings

This piece on Recovery Meetings was written by Jay.  I think this a really good, balanced piece, which talks about the good and not so good side of attending recovery meetings. He also looks at the idea of moving on from recovery meetings which many find terrifying as well as outside therapy. I feel this accurately reflects the present recovery movement, where the 12 step type of meeting is still the type of group most people attend, at least for a while.

He also wrote this piece for my blog I hope we do a podcast together soon.

Recovery Meetings

I attend recovery meetings much like I attend anything else. Particularly because it gives me a sense of committing to my own sobriety– even if I’m on my phone playing Tetris or texting somebody, my body is present and I sometimes do hear worthwhile things from the shares. The other reason I attend recovery meetings is to be present in the event where somebody else much like myself is looking to stay clean but isn’t exactly sure that the steps are for them. The newcomer was the most important person in the room for a while. Until the most important person in the room became whoever had the floor at the moment.

Recovery meetings

I’ve heard the steps called, “work.” Los Angeles is fond of saying, “doing the work,” which sounds a lot like a chore. It can be discouraging when you’re at your wits end and the only rescue raft you see is to “do the work,” or to be asked, “did you have enough yet? Are you willing to go to any lengths to stay sober?” It’s not a fair question as it puts anybody in a position where their back is against the wall and it creates an upper hand advantage to the person asking to more or less border abusive in their demands. Much like the child mind of the active alcoholic, the sponsor now demands assignments be done on time to show willingness. This is a great theory and “my hat is off to you,” if this works for you, because it didn’t work for me.

Early on in my recovery there was a sense of unease when I decided I would be staying clean without any program of recovery. I was disillusioned with alternative recovery programs because I recognized that many are in fact for profit when they claim not to be. The word, “self supporting,” is thrown around very loosely and unless there is a bit of investigation, which these days is readily available thanks to the internet– you might actually believe your dollar is keeping your building open. This is true. However there are many other things your money is going to that we won’t get into.

Leaving a recovery program.

The feeling of leaving a recovery program can be terrifying. You’re conditioned to believe that if you miss meetings you will drink or use again which ultimately means death. You are taught that if you don’t listen to your sponsor you’re going to drink or use again. And you are taught that your best thinking got you into the predicament you found yourself in when you asked for help. So what alternatives do you have?

First, your sponsor at best is somebody with an elementary understanding of the true natures of addiction. Trauma being the frontrunner followed closely by neglect, can be worked out with a qualified therapist, medication, meditation and a sense of connection. Meetings are an excellent way to make sober friends who have similar interests and encourage you to do better in your life. Secondly, the word God gets thrown around with the word “Higher Power,” which if you read the chapter to the Agnostics, it is a direct attack on the principles of disbelief. If you aren’t persuaded to convert to a believer many times you may feel isolated or shunned from the community. The perfect part about believing is that you can choose whatever you want to believe in. You can choose to believe that therapy is going to help you. You can choose to believe that you’re never going to drink or use again. You can choose to believe that everything that happened in your past happened for a reason and you’d like to make the best of things moving forward. Or you could choose to believe not to believe in anything and to get better in spite of. There’s no law on earth that says man needs to believe in anything.

The steps.

Lastly, the steps are a great tool to becoming a better person. But they aren’t for everybody, and more importantly they shouldn’t be recognized as the be all end all of addiction recovery. There are many people who are abstinent and happy who have never looked at the steps a day in their lives. If you do decide to take the steps, you should do it at a pace where you feel comfortable with someone you feel comfortable with, not the first lunatic who approaches you in a meeting asking if you have a sponsor and if you’re “done yet.” This is your life. If your best wishes are to grow into a healthier version, then trust that your decisions are leading you into that, not somebody elses demands.

I’ve been off of drugs and alcohol for over a year now through the help of myself and the people in my life whom I’ve chosen to include in this process. I see a therapist on a weekly basis and in the beginning went to therapy several times a week. I’ve realized that relapse isn’t a monster that hides in the closet waiting to pounce on me when I’m not expecting it. Relapse is the last decision I make to leave my responsibilities when my life reaches a point I’m unhappy with. Life to me is life, it has many good and bad days to it, however there are moments I can embrace every day with people I love and feel lucky to be able to be involved with in any capacity. It isn’t about “doing the work,” or “giving up control,” its about filling your life with as many positive moments and experiences as you can have so the decision to go back to using seems disgusting and your mind creates an aversion to it accordingly.

Whatever your decision, so long as it leads to you becoming the best version of yourself that you wish to be, embrace it.



Commenting area

  1. Paul Gillen August 21, 2016 at 5:46 pm · · Reply

    If I’m reading this correctly the moderator and Jay want to jointly do a podcast on recovery. Jay says “I’ve been off of drugs and alcohol for over a year now”. A year? Really? You really think that after a year of being off of drugs and alcohol you have enough wisdom and insight to share? Jay attended 12 step meetings for a year during which he played Tetris on his cell phone. That is how he self reportedly stayed sober for a year. I’m not sure that is the basis for either criticism or guidance. It frankly makes we wonder about the moderator’s sobriety.

    I like to think of myself as a pragmatist in all this; whatever works. Some people just put it down. Some go to church. Some go to 12 step meetings. Some actually do the program outlined in the 12 steps. For some of these latter this works. Many of the 12 step rooms are cult-like; many of the cultists remain sober at least for a while. In many of the 12 step rooms you’ll find so much laughter and joking around that addiction and recovery never get mentioned; some stay sober on this fellowship. I guess the bottom line to me is ‘are you staying sober?’ Whether so or not I wish you well.

    • I enjoy talking to people on the podcasts who are at different stages of recovery as the people listening are at different stages as well and many are loking for new methods having found that the old fashioned 12 step solution is not suitable for them. By the way I am sober and have been for a decade unlike most of the people that joined AA the same time as me. I put this down to taking responsibility for my recovery, and for my life, rather than sitting in rooms listening to old timers quote the big book, or talk about higher powers or prayer.

    • I enjoy talking to people on the podcasts who are at different stages of recovery as the people listening are at different stages as well and many are looking for new methods having found that the old fashioned 12 step solution is not suitable for them. By the way I am sober and have been for a decade, unlike most of the people that joined AA the same time as me. I put this down to taking responsibility for my recovery, and for my life, rather than sitting in rooms listening to old timers quote the big book, or talk about higher powers or prayer.

  2. I feel very relieved to find a space were I can finally let go of my denial and chat objectively about my experience of AA. I have made the decision to leave after nearly 3 years. I agree it has been a useful transition from active addiction to a healthier life it can be a good short term solution perhaps I would have and I tried to stay but in the end I was not able to get along with certain elements of the programme. I think a lot of things in life has positive and negatives but if the negatives are staring you in the face to much I have to accept I need to move on. These are the reasons why it was not going to be the right place to take me to my next phase of recovery

    The culture of labelling..the most obvious one is I am an alcoholic. I was begging to feel like these words were a life sentence I was chaining myself to forever .it does not end there in the particular meetings I was attending there was a culture of people labelling them selfs mad and telling me I was mad in the process . the things is I don’t even think they were all that mad I just think a lot of them had a lot of unresolved trauma issues. We have the alcoholic mind is another one. My first sponsor was more sensible but my second sponsor also like to label him self as mad and wanted to give me the same label in the process. I actually started to doubt my sanity. I am recovering from PTSD I think lables can be damaging for anyone whose sense of self is already fragile. and whats more this is who you are for the rest of your life your a mad alcoholic as I found some members who had been doing it for a while were still describing them selfs as mad.even the AA bible the big book uses the word abnormal to describe you.

    I do not believe in the disease model anymore I think how and why people drink is very complicated in many cases I believe people use drink and drugs to treat there unresolved trauma. I observed in the meeting how some members had been there for a long time but it was very obvious they had a lot of other issues besides addiction but they are using only the programme but it seemed they had just replaced alcohol with other addictions and being the one I could most easily observe.

    the sponsorship system..i think its a great idea in theory but in practice it can be and is a ripe ground for abuse of vulnerable individuals by some people who seem ill equipped to handle what they are taking on. I was fortunate enough to have a sensible sponsor but amongst other sponsors in my meetings and through hearing of other peoples experiences I could observe bullying tactic , control , and sexually predatory behaviour. I don’t think AA is a cult in the real sense of the word but some of the more charismatic sponsors would set them selfs up as the leaders and I found them the most hypocritical and worst behaved. One of them was behaving in a sexually predatory away towards one of his sponsees and he could be very bullying to any newcomers who he felt competitive with . I experienced some bullying from one of the other charismatic sponsors I met in the early days . we met for coffee and he liked to gossip about one of the members sex life. He was a big narccisstic with a messiah complex he directed me to his website he had created which for all intent and purposes was proclaiming himself as a sort of saint. When I was no longer validating him he turned quite nasty on me.In the early days a sponsor tried to impose him self on me and told me that he was going to be my sponsor, one of my friends in the programme was complaining his sponsor was telling him when to get up when to phone him when to go to meetings and in my friends own words said made him follow him around like a lackey. the sponsors are basicly the groups leaders I just found this poor leadership

  3. I just want to add this was not an easy place for me to arrive politics aside, i am terribly grateful for the positive things AA did for me and The work I did with them will continue to influence my recovery

  4. Hi Terry thanks for getting in touch. AA helped me for a while as being part of a sober community really helped but after a while I found it was holding me back and I got some outside help and moved on. Best wishes for the future. You may find some of the podcasts we do helpful.

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